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Victor of Aveyron

Victor of Aveyron (also The Wild Boy of Aveyron) was a boy who apparently lived his entire childhood alone in the woods before being found wandering the woods near Saint Sernin sur Rance, France[?] (near Toulouse) in 1797. He was captured, but soon escaped. He was then captured again and kept in the care of a local woman for about a week before he escaped once more.

However, on January 8, 1800, he emerged from the forests on his own, perhaps habituated to human kindness after his second experience. His age was unknown but citizens of the village estimated that he was about twelve years old. His lack of speech, as well as his food preferences and the numerous scars on his body, indicated that he had been in the wild for the majority of his life. This remarkable situation came about at the end of the Enlightenment, when many were debating what exactly distinguished man from animal. One of the prevailing opinions involved the ability to learn language; it was hoped that by studying the wild boy, they would learn the answer.

Shortly after Victor's discovery, a local abbot and biology professor named Bonnatere examined him. He removed the boy's clothing and led him outside into the snow, where, far from being upset, Victor began to frolic about in the nude. This indicated to some that human reaction to temperature is greatly a result of conditioning and experience.

Despite the fact that he could hear, Victor was taken to the National Institute of the Deaf for the purpose of study. Jean-Marc Itard[?], a young medical student, took on the remarkable case as his own. He wanted to be the first person to fully civilize a wild child and attempted, primarily, to teach Victor to speak. Though initially successful -- Victor showed significant progress, at least, in understanding language and reading simple words -- he eventually slowed down to the point that Itard abandoned the experiment. The only words that Victor ever actually learned to speak were lait (milk) and O Dieu (oh God). This was one of the first hints of what is now generally believed: language acquisition must take place in the first few years of life.

The Wild Boy of Aveyron died in Paris in 1828.

Victor's life was dramatized in Francois Truffaut's 1970 film l'Enfant Sauvage (marketed in English as The Wild Child).

See also

Further reading

  • R. Stattuck (1980). The Forbidden Experiment: the Story of the Wild Boy of Aveyron. New York: Kodansha International.

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